Fort Zachary Taylor State Historical Park
Fort Zachary Taylor is one of the largest preserved historic tracts of land in Key West. Owned and run by the State, it offers expanses of beach, cycling trails, pathways, and pine tree stands that you can’t find anywhere else on the island. The beach is favored by locals, and since it’s on the tip of the island where the currents rush by, it’s one of the cleanest in Key West. There are kayak rentals here, a concession stand, plenty of parking, and it’s just a few bucks to get into the park. Entrance fee covers admission to the historical park as well as the beach and fishing areas. The history of the park is outlined in signs placed all over the fort, and you can walk the alcoves and on top of the fort, which looks out into the Atlantic Ocean.
The Construction of Fort Zachary Taylor
Fort Zachary Taylor is one of a series of forts built on the coastlines of the United States around the same time, the mid to late 1800s. The purpose of these coastline forts was to defend the borders from seaside attacks, especially for the Civil War. Fort Taylor was begun in 1845 and because of its location became one of the most important forts in the country in the 19th century. Built 1200 feet off the tip of Key West, and at the time surrounded by ocean, Fort Taylor defended the waters around Key West, the Gulf of Mexico, and also the Straits of Florida. Even today, this large fort is one of the most sizeable masonry structures in all of North America.
Although construction on Fort Taylor was begun in 1845, it wasn’t competed until the Civil War was just about over. It took more than two decades to finish this mammoth fortress because it was so hard to get construction materials to the building site. The Florida Keys’ geology is much different from that of the mainland, since the islands are built on fossilized coral and there is very little topsoil or rock. Aside from building materials’ scarcity, workers on Fort Taylor also had to deal with hurricanes, which put major delays on construction. Troops and canons didn’t arrive at the fort until 1860, when their arrival was celebrated because of their strategic importance in fighting the US Civil War.
Fort Zachary served the Union Navy in the Civil War, even though Florida took actions to leave the Union in 1861. The US Army marched into the fort to claim it for the Union, so federal troops were stationed at the Fort for the duration of the War. US Army Artillery Captain John Brannan was the man responsible for securing Fort Zachary Taylor for the Union.